SPRINGFIELD – State lawmakers voted this year to make Illinois the second state after California to require public schools to provide accommodations for lactating students. The law will go into effect January 1.
Breastfeeding provides health benefits for babies and long-term preventative effects for mothers, including an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight and a reduced risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer and osteoporosis.
Illinois law protects lactating mothers' rights to publicly feed their infants, and requires employers to provide lactation accommodations for their employees that are breastfeeding. Lactating mothers in Illinois are exempt from jury duty and the state has developed several state-funded breastfeeding education programs. Airports in Illinois are required to have accommodations for lactating mothers as well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 77 percent of mothers start breastfeeding immediately after birth, but only about 16 percent of those moms are breastfeeding exclusively six months later, NCSL reports.
As a part of the Obama Administration's Healthy People 2020 initiative, the national goal is to increase the proportion of mothers who breastfeed their babies in the early postpartum period to 81.9 percent by the year 2020.